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May 30, 2008
Police prepared for busy night on Providence streets
PROVIDENCE -- It’s going to be a busy night in Providence, which could mean a busy night for the Providence police.
Police Chief Dean Esserman said he’s prepared for tonight’s festivities, which include a full WaterFire performance on downtown rivers and streets, Hot Night 2008, a hip-hop concert at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, the annual Pell Awards for achievement in the arts on Empire Street, and two prom celebrations.
This afternoon, Esserman said there will be a 22-person special police detail at the Dunkin' Donuts Center for the concert and another 16-person detail for WaterFire and a 13-person detail at Providence Place mall.
And he’ll be coordinating from the department’s mobile command center until about 3 a.m. to keep an eye on emptying bars and clubs.
“We think it’s going to go wonderfully,” Esserman said.
-- projo.com staff writer Brandie M. Jefferson, with reports from Journal staff writer Gregory Smith
Posted by Brandie M. Jefferson at 7:05 PM
Crews on scene of a structure fire in Providence
PROVIDENCE -- Crews at this hour are on scene of a structure fire, believed to be in a residence, at 125 Whittier Ave., according to fire dispatch.
Posted by Mike McKinney at 6:58 PM
3 bitten by foxes in Hopkinton; at least 1 fox rabid
A fox caught in Hopkinton has tested positive for rabies while test results are pending for a second fox caught in the town -- and three people who were bitten will undergo treatment, the state Department of Environmental Management says.
The foxes were caught separately in the area of Sweet Valley Estates, near the Lindhbrook Golf Course near the center of town, the DEM environmental police said this evening.
Earlier today, a DEM news release warned Hopkinton residents that there have been two incidents in which people in town were bitten by foxes in unprovoked attacks -- and that one fox had tested positive for rabies.
Last night, a person was bitten while using a weed-whacking device in the yard in the Sweet Valley Estates area. Police called the DEM, whose officers captured and brought the fox to the state Department of Health laboratory, where it tested positive for the disease.
A second person got bitten during the capture, the DEM says.
Today, another person was bitten by a fox in an unprovoked attack, the DEM says. At the time of the news release, the fox was not captured.
The three people will get a series of vaccinations as part of the treatment regimen.
The DEM news release asked people in Hopkinton to be to be vigilant and to report any contact with foxes to DEM's environmental police office at 222-3070.
More about rabies from the state DEM ...
-- projo.com staff writer Michael P. McKinney, with reports from Journal staff writer Scott MacKay
Posted by Mike McKinney at 6:45 PM
R.I. chef in finals for Next Food Network Star
The Next Food Network Star is back for a fourth season on Food Network with a local chef, Jennifer Cochrane, 32, of Woonsocket among the 10 finalists.
And the restaurant where she was executive chef is throwing a party on Sunday.
Geppetto’s Restaurant, 57 De Pasquale Ave., Providence, will host a premiere party to preview the first episode of the Next Food Network Star from 7 to 9 p.m.
There will be free give-aways and food and drink specials for this Food Network sanctioned event. The episode appears on the Food Network at 10 p.m. and replays at 1 a.m.
Posted by Andrea Panciera at 6:39 PM
Pre-trial conference for Barrington teen postponed
PROVIDENCE -- A pre-trial conference slated for Monday for Ryan Greenberg, the Barrington teenager charged with second-degree murder in the boating death of another Barrington teen, has been put off.
Instead, on June 20, the various sides in the case will decide on a new pre-trial conference date.
As part of the scheduling change, a bail review that was to be held June 23 will be held June 20, according to Michael Healey, spokesman for Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch.
Earlier this month, Greenberg admitted to violating terms of his bail after the Barrington police said they found him and seven other underage Barrington residents at a pond with beer and liquor in April.
-- With Journal archival reports
Posted by Mike McKinney at 5:51 PM
Arguments for new trial for 3 Narragansetts postponed
Arguments for motions for a new trial for the three Narragansett Indians convicted of misdemeanor charges related to the state police smoke-shop raid were postponed to June 11 to give lawyers more time to prepare, a court spokesman said today
The arguments had been scheduled for Monday.
A Providence Superior Court jury found Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas guilty of assaulting a state trooper during a six-week trial. Two other tribal members were also convicted of misdemeanor crimes, while four Narragansetts were acquitted altogether.
State police executed a search warrant on the roadside shop on tribal land in Charlestown July 14, 2003, to stop the Narragansetts from selling cigarettes without charging Rhode Island taxes.
The raid descended into a confrontation in which eight Narragansetts were arrested. Charges against a juvenile were dismissed in Family Court. The seven other tribal members were tried earlier this year
-- Journal staff writer Katie Mulvaney
Posted by Mike McKinney at 2:43 PM
Reporter's query: Did you get caught in house price drop?
Did you get caught in the house price downturn? If your plans to sell your house and retire, travel, downsize, or pursue some other venture have been scuttled by this real estate bust, we want to hear your story.
Please contact Providence Journal staff writer Lynn Arditi at email@example.com or call (401) 277-7335. Please include a daytime phone number where you can be reached. Thank you.
Posted by Andrea Panciera at 2:33 PM
Black bears and you
In case you haven’t heard, there may be a black bear meandering through South County.
With all of the publicity, the Department of Environmental Management has decided to issue some tips on how to live alongside bears:
Fist thing’s first. Bears like food that’s accessible and reliable. Who doesn't?
If the garbage is left out, a bear will keep coming back for more. If the grill is still dripping with grease from Memorial Day, the bear will sniff you out. And as one Narragansett resident already knows –– black bears can eat some bird seed.
So, according to DEM, keep garbage out of sight, in sheds and garages, or double bag your trash. Clean your grill, it will make your food taste better too. And there’s plenty of food for birds without birdseed, especially from April to November, so DEM recommends taking down the bird feeders.
For more tips on life with your new, wild neighbors, download this .PDF brochure from the DEM, or click below.
-- projo.com staff writer Brandie M. Jefferson
The DEM also says the animals, fierce as they can be, "generally shy and secretive, and usually fearful of humans."
This doesn't mean, of course, that they're not dangerous, but according to DEM, it's safe to make loud noises and waive your hands to scare one away from a safe distance -- but remember, the bars can climb trees, swim and run up to 35 mph. Keep that in mind when considering a safe distance.
If, in a reverse of fortune, you happen to surprise a bear and it's at close range, back away slowly. But don't make eye contact! It may be perceived as a threat.
The animals are typically nocturnal, with poor eyesight, decent hearing and a keen sense of smell. They eat grass, leaves, fruit, nuts and berries, according to DEM, and will sometimes eat small mammals and insects.
But without a supply of food, bears are likely to leave the suburbs and head back to the forest. So keep food under wraps, and you and the bears should get along just fine.
Posted by Brandie M. Jefferson at 2:23 PM
Entwistle fails to block his trial in wife, daughter's deaths
WOBURN, Mass. — A judge refused Friday to dismiss murder charges or change the location of a trial for a British man accused of killing his wife and infant daughter, and delayed ruling on whether prosecutors can introduce evidence that Neil Entwistle trolled the Internet looking for sex.
Judge Diane Kottmyer rejected the defense claim that the intense media coverage of the case has made it impossible for Entwistle to find an impartial jury.
The judge also denied a request to move the trial to Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard after Entwistle’s lawyer said it might be the only place in Massachusetts where the case has not received saturation media coverage. Kottmyer said jury selection will begin as scheduled Monday in Middlesex Superior Court.
Entwistle is charged with fatally shooting his wife, Rachel, 27, and daughter, Lillian Rose, 9 months, on Jan. 20, 2006. Their bodies were discovered curled up in bed together in their rented Hopkinton, Mass., house two days later.
-- The Associated Press
Kottmyer postponed a ruling on a request from prosecutors to show the jury Entwistle’s computer history, which includes numerous visits to escort service Web sites and other sites that help people find sexual partners.
Weinstein said hearing about the Web sites could prejudice the jury against Entwistle because prosecutors plan to use his online history to argue he was motivated to kill his wife in part because he was unhappy with his sex life.
“The evidence in this case will show that there was nothing but a loving relationship between Neil and Rachel Entwistle,” Weinstein said.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Fabbri said prosecutors want to tell the jury about Entwistle’s computer history to “show what was going on in the mind of the defendant at or around the time of the crime.”
Kottmyer said she will review earlier cases to decide whether the jury will hear about the sex sites.
According to a summary of the case filed in court by prosecutors, Entwistle’s computer records showed he exchanged e-mails with a woman he met on a Web site called Adult Friend Finder. He told the woman he was in a relationship “but looking for a bit more fun in the bedroom” and “a very discrete relationship just for fun.”
Prosecutors have said Entwistle was despondent because he was unemployed and deeply in debt. They have also said that he may have planned to kill himself after killing his wife and daughter.
Entwistle told police he returned home from doing errands to find his wife and daughter dead. He said he was so distraught upon finding their bodies that he contemplated suicide, but instead flew to England to be comforted by his parents.
Posted by Brandie M. Jefferson at 2:15 PM
Update: CVS Trial: Kramer, Ortiz cleared of all charges
Journal photo / Bill Murphy
Former CVS executive John R. "Jack" Kramer leaves the courthouse after he and co-defendant Carlos Ortiz, also a former CVS executive, were speedily cleared of all charges today.
PROVIDENCE -- Former CVS executives John R. "Jack" Kramer and Carlos Ortiz have been cleared of charges that they tried bribing former state Sen. John Celona to win favor in the State House for the Woonsocket-based drugstore chain.
The jury of eight men and four women reached their verdict in less than two hours, clearing them of all 23 charges lodged against each defendant. Jurors got the case at 10:35 this morning after receiving instructs from Chief U.S. District Judge Mary M. Lisi.
Some in the courtroom sighed with relief as the not-guilty verdicts in the high-profile case were quickly read around 12:15 p.m.
After the verdict, trial participants, reporters, family and friends gathered outside the federal courthouse.
Descending the steps into a pleasant, blue-sky afternoon, Kramer, 75, wearing a dark suit, clapped his hands once or twice, then waved his arms, motioning a dozen or so waiting reporters forward.
Kramer said he could not believe what he had been through. "This has been an unfair, unjust prosecution," he said.
Kramer said that as he waited for the verdict to be read, “I was just so nervous, just so nervous.”
He added that “frankly, it was my faith that carried me through this.”
Kramer said he had put his life on hold for 3 ½ to 4 years, and now, “You’re like, ‘Now what?’”
He said he didn’t have an answer to that question yet.
Journal photo / Bill Murphy
Ortiz reacts to a question outside the courthouse.
Ortiz, 64, also clad in a dark suit, left the courthouse to the applause of family members and friends.
But his wife, Jan, said, "I'm not real happy with the government for putting together this sham of a case."
Ortiz himself declined to characterize the government's case after his wife spoke.
Both men thanked their lawyers.
Asked if he was disappointed by the verdict, U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente said, "Well, that's the way the system works, so we'll go on from here."
Asked what went wrong, he said: “I’m not sure anything went wrong.”
The verdict follows a three-week trial in U.S. District Court, Providence. Kramer and Ortiz were each charged with 1 count of conspiracy to commit honest-services mail fraud, 21 counts of honest-services mail fraud and 1 count of bribery.
Your Turn: Do you agree with the "not guilty" verdict in CVS case?
-- projo.com staff writers Jack Perry and Michael P. McKinney, with archival reports
The government's star witness was Celona, who is serving a 2 1/2-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to charges that he sold his office to CVS, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, and Roger Williams Medical Center.
Reporters' questions after the verdict centered in part on Celona's effectiveness as a witness.
Scott Corrigan, one of Kramer's lawyers, reflecting on the swifly delivered verdict, said of Celona in the trial: "You can see for yourself what kind of a witness he was.”
Celona spent four days on the witness stand, but for three of those days, he was under cross-examination, and defense attorneys pointed out inconsistencies in his testimony.
Celona testified how he came to be hired as a consultant by CVS, how he did the company’s legislative bidding while neglecting the other duties spelled out in his consulting agreement, and how he concealed the arrangement because he didn’t want the public to think he had switched sides on pharmacy-choice legislation because CVS was paying him.
CVS was opposed to the pharmacy-choice legislation.
But on cross-examination Celona was confronted with evidence that he had cheated on his taxes, failed to correct tax problems as promised in his plea agreement with prosecutors and lied to the authorities more times than he could remember.
The defense rested without calling any witnesses. Neither Kramer, nor Ortiz took the stand to explain why CVS hired Celona, a state senator from North Providence, as a $1,000-a-month consultant from 2000 to 2003.
In closing arguments over five hours yesterday, the prosecution argued that Celona abused his political office for CVS’ gain, at the behest of Kramer and Ortiz.
The defense countered that Celona was hired for legitimate purposes, promoting CVS charities on his cable-access television show –– work that was permissible under Rhode Island law defining the state’s “citizen legislator” form of government.
After the verdict, CVS issued a statement this afternoon, saying the company "believes that the judicial process has produced a fair and just outcome.
"Today’s verdict is consistent with the company’s long-held view that Mr. Kramer and Mr. Ortiz had not engaged in criminal conduct. We are pleased for these two men and their families that this long and painful ordeal has ended," the statement said.
U.S. Attorney Corrente said his office would continue with its investigation into corruption at the State House, "Operation Dollar Bill."
"If anyone thinks were going away, we're not," Corrente said.
Posted by Brandie M. Jefferson at 1:17 PM
Providence police to patrol on electric scooters / Photo
Journal photo / Andrew Dickerman
Electric scooters are in the lineup today as they are demonstrated by Providence police. Mayor David N. Cicilline is at far right.
PROVIDENCE -- Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman and Mayor David N. Cicilline today unveiled a fleet of four electric scooters that will supplement this summer’s police patrol.
Although the nearly emissions-free scooters have been touted as a "green" alternative to motorcycles, this summer they will be replacing the city's emissions-free foot and bicycle patrols, Esserman said at a press conference this morning.
The scooters are on loan from manufacturer Vectrix Corporation, a Middletown-based company that has sold fleets to police departments in New York and California.
The scooters, which have a suggested retail price of $8,400 to $8,500, have a top speed of 62 mph and are black except for Providence police decals and amber caution lights.
“They are cool,” Esserman said today. And Providence will be just the third city in the nation to use them, even on a tryout basis.
Although the department gets to use the scooter for free this summer, the program is costing the city about $1,450 for helmets and police decals.
-- projo.com staff writer Brandie M. Jefferson, with reports by Journal staff writer Gregory Smith
Posted by Brandie M. Jefferson at 12:10 PM
Big party fights small enemy -- the tick
PROVIDENCE -- How's this for the theme of your next party: Ticks and Vector Borne Diseases?
Too bad, it's taken.
Tonight, politicians and scientists are getting together for the Big Tick Gala, an event that highlights people who work to spread the word about and prevent against tick bites and the harm they can cause.
There's even a silent auction and an awards ceremony. The "Think TICK, Take Action" awards recognize government, philanthropic and grass-roots efforts to combat ticks.
The event is taking place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Botanical Gardens in Roger Williams Park.
Tonight's event will also serve as the launch for the University of Rhode Island's upcoming tick awareness program. Guests will include U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, Governor Carcieri, URI scientists and researchers, including Thomas Mather, head of the school's Center for Vector-Borne Disease, which is hosting the gala.
Tickets are $25 -- for more information, call 874-2928 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- projo.com staff writer Brandie M. Jefferson
Posted by Brandie M. Jefferson at 12:09 PM
CVS trial: It's in the jury's hands now
Journal photo / Frank Gerardi
Chief District Judge Mary M. Lisi this morning instructs the jury in the trial of two former CVS executives.
PROVIDENCE -- And now they deliberate.
At 10:35 this morning, a jury of eight men and four women received the federal corruption case against former CVS executives John R. "Jack’’ Kramer and Carlos Ortiz.
"You should exercise reasonable and intelligent judgment,’’ advised Chief U.S. District Judge Mary M. Lisi.
She urged them not to feel pressured to yield their position if they are in the minority, but also not to be stubborn and to "keep an open mind.’’
The deliberations began after a three-week trial and followed an hour of instructions this morning from the judge on the law. Lisi defined such basic concepts as "beyond a reasonable doubt’’ and then outlined the elements of the 23 counts that Kramer and Ortiz are charged with -- 1 count of conspiracy to commit honest-services mail fraud, 21 counts of honest-services mail fraud and 1 count of bribery.
Kramer and Ortiz are accused of hiring a Rhode Island senator, John Celona, as a $1,000-a-month consultant to help further the legislative agenda of the Woonsocket-based drugstore chain giant. By doing so, they allegedly deprived the citizens of Rhode Island of the honest services of an elected official.
Read Journal coverage of the lawyers' closing arguments.
Extra: Trial coverage and more on the related Operation Dollar Bill investigation.
-- Journal staff writer Mike Stanton
A key question that the jury must decide is whether Kramer and Ortiz acted "knowingly and willfully’’ to corrupt Celona by hiring him to influence his actions as a senator.
Under Rhode Island law, Lisi explained to the jury, part-time legislators can participate in legislation affecting a company they work for, as long as the legislation affects all similar types of businesses equally. It is the legislator’s responsibility to determine if there is a conflict, and whether to avoid participating.
Furthermore, Lisi instructed, the law allows a business with a legislator on its payroll to communicate with that legislator regarding legislation, provided that the payments to the legislator are not intended to influence his official actions.
Kramer and Ortiz maintain that CVS hired Celona for legitimate public relations purposes and that the defendants’ communications with Celona on legislation was permissible.
The prosecution counters that there was no sensible reason for CVS to hire Celona, other than for political favors, since the evidence shows that he didn’t do the public relations work mentioned in his consulting agreement, that he was paid from CVS’s political contributions account and that Kramer and Ortiz sought to conceal the relationship.
Prosecutors hammered at the point that Celona helped kill pharmacy choice legislation that Kramer and Ortiz reported would have cost CVS millions of dollars in profits.
Posted by Mike McKinney at 11:12 AM
No bears in sight
Where's the bear?
Taken up residency? Taking a nap? Taken off?
Whatever the case, the black bear -- or bears -- that has been spotted from Scituate to Narragansett in the past few weeks has been nowhere in sight since about 4 p.m. yesterday, according to the Department of Environmental Management.
And neither officials in North Kingstown or Narragansett, where the last two sightings came from, have fielded any sighting calls recently.
And so, for now, there are no DEM Environmental Police waiting in the woods, no municipal police pounding the pavement, and no calls from residents missing bird feeders.
But it's early yet.
And here's a question, where did the bear or bears come from?
-- projo.com staff writer Brandie M. Jefferson
Posted by Brandie M. Jefferson at 10:17 AM
Lottery today for spots order on Foster ballot
FOSTER - Candidates for the open town council seat will find out later today the order in which their names will appear on the July 8 ballot.
Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis scheduled a lottery late this afternoon to determine the order of names on the ballot.
Democrat Roger Hawes, Republican Gordon Rogers and Jonathon Vorro, who is running unaffiliated, are facing off for the seat left open after Harold Shippee Sr. resigned in March.
"When I ran for office, I pledged to make government more transparent," Mollis said in a statement.
"There is nothing that will give voters more faith in the fairness of their elections than the chance to see firsthand how the process unfolds."
The lottery is set for 4:30 p.m. at the elections division, 148 West River St., Providence. Mollis has invited the candidates and Foster residents to attend.
Foster residents must register to vote in the special election by June 7. Voters must be at least 18 years old, U.S. citizens and have a valid Social Security number or Rhode Island driver’s license.
State law gives Mollis the authority to hold lotteries to determine ballot placement.
Posted by Brandie M. Jefferson at 9:04 AM
Entwistle lawyers to ask for dismissal, venue change
WOBURN, Mass. — Lawyers for the British man accused of killing his wife and infant daughter in the family’s Hopkinton, Mass., home say they will ask a judge to dismiss the charges or change the location of the trial scheduled to start Monday.
Attorney Stephanie Page says Neil Entwistle can’t get a fair trial in Middlesex County because of intense international media coverage.
Lawyers are scheduled to argue motions in Middlesex Superior Court today.
The defense also intends to ask the judge to exclude from trial the evidence prosecutors gathered against Entwistle since his arrest in February 2006.
Prosecutors claim Entwistle killed his 27-year-old wife, Rachel, and 9-month-old daughter, Lillian Rose, in January 2006. Entwistle told police he found them dead after returning from an errand.
-- The Associated Press
Posted by Brandie M. Jefferson at 8:59 AM
CVS Trial: Jury instructions today
Chief Judge Mary M. Lisi is set to read instructions today to the jury charged with deciding whether two former executives of Woonsocket-based CVS are guilty of trying to buy influence from former state Sen. John Celona, who is serving time in a federal prison for corruption.
Yesterday the jury heard four hours of closing arguments in the trial. The prosecution argued that Celona abused his office to help CVS at the State House on behalf of John R. “Jack” Kramer and Carlos Ortiz, two former executives at the drugstore giant.
Lawyers for the two argued instead that Celona was legitimately hired to promote CVS charities on his cable-access television show.
After three weeks of testimony, Lisi is set to instruct the jury and deliberations may begin today.
Special Report: More on the trial and the Operation Dollar Bill corruption investigation.
Posted by Brandie M. Jefferson at 7:59 AM
Traffic Alert: Route 195 east, one lane blocked
An accident this morning has a lane closed on the Washington Bridge heading to Massachusetts.
The accident, on the eastbound side of Route 195, has the right lane closed on the bridge.
See how traffic is moving near the site of the accident, and along your commute, on the Transportation Management Center's Web cameras.
Posted by Brandie M. Jefferson at 7:50 AM
Today in history
On this day in 1431 Joan of Arc, condemned as a heretic, was burned at the stake in Rouen, France.
Read more about today in history.
Check out a video report about today in history.
Posted by Jack Perry at 7:02 AM
Nice Friday, not-so-nice Saturday
Bob was right.
I didn't want to spoil the beautiful day, but today I have to. After a reprieve last week, it’s back to the same ol’ “beautiful week, crummy weekend” business that we’ve seen for the past month or so.
Today will start off wonderful. By 8 a.m., we should hit 60 degrees and the National Weather Service is forecasting a clear, sun-filled sky, a high temperature near 76 degrees and the mildest of north winds.
Tonight looks good too, with temperatures dropping just 20 degrees to about 56 degrees, increasing clouds and a light, south wind.
But early Saturday morning we'll have a slight chance of showers, and as the morning goes on, we get hit: showers, thunderstorms and breezy west winds gusting up to 36 mph. The temperatures will stay mild, with highs in the low 70s.
The same goes for Saturday night, with showers and thunderstorms on and off throughout the day. Temperatures will remain mild, with a low of 58 degrees and west winds gusting up to 31 degrees. In all Saturday, we can expect three-quarters of an inch of rain -- and more in areas of the most intense thunderstorms.
But the rain should take off as quickly as it arrives, and Sunday we'll get back to sun, partly sunny skies and highs in the mid 70s. West winds should be between 8 and 14 mph.
Clouds should thicken Sunday night, but no rain in the forecast. We'll have an overnight low in the low 50s.
And Monday, the trend should continue: back to work, back to sunshine, blue skies, and mild temperatures in the mid 70s.
Cross your fingers and check projo.com's weather page -- maybe Saturday's forecast will change.
Posted by Brandie M. Jefferson at 7:01 AM
Today's front page
Today's front page features a report on the average price for a gallon of gasoline reaching the $4 mark in Rhode Island.
Download a copy of today's front page in .pdf format.
Posted by Jack Perry at 7:00 AM